Look for Koepka to be in playoff mix

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The first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs this week has two vital numbers: 1 and 71.

The number 1 is easy as that would be this week’s winner at The Northern Trust. The number 71 represents the first man out and he, along with the remaining 54 players who finish behind him, get to take the rest of the playoffs off as just the top 70 advance to Round 2.

Now that the FedEx Cup playoff first round field is set, it’s time to see which PGA Tour pro has the game and mindset to walk away with the championship and a whole lot of money — $15 million to be exact.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves as players first have to survive four rounds at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. The course, a par-71 layout for the tournament, stretches out to 7,353 yards.

One sports-wide saying certainly applies this week: You can’t win the FedEx Cup this week (although you can put yourself in position ‘A’ with a win) but you can certainly lose it.

At the end of the rainbow for this three-week run is that aforementioned $15 million payoff for the playoff champion. That’s up from $10 million that Justin Rose pocketed last year.

Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy are 1-and-2 in the points race right now with Koepka, at 2,887 points, holding a 572-point lead. Now if this was a usual PGA Tour event, with 500 points going to the winner, there’s no way Koepka could be caught this week.

But we’re in the playoffs and the winner this week earns 2,000 points. Second place drops to 1,200 points and so on down to just six points for 85th place.

At the very least, this week’s winner probably writes his ticket into the Tour Championship finale in Atlanta even if he’s 125th on the points list.

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Don’t believe us? Well, if Pat Perez wins this week from his 125th spot, he would skyrocket and likely be in the top 30 (depending on how the rest of the players fare in this event point-wise). Perez got into the playoffs despite missing the cut last week. He fell three spots from 122 to 125. He beat Richy Werenski (who tied for 39th last week but didn’t earn enough points to catch Perez) by two points, 376-374.

Remember, Koepka is at 2,887 points while 30th place Hideki Matsuyama comes in at 969 points. Add in 2,000 points for a Perez win (probably not going to happen) and … well, you can see everyone’s in the picture this week.

With all of those facts and figures in place, it all comes down to who’s got the most momentum and motivation to win this week.

We’ll throw out motivation because if the players can’t get motivated this week with more millions than usual on the line they aren’t long for the playoffs.

That leaves us with momentum. And, as usual, we come back to one name: Koepka, the favorite this week at 8-1.

Sure, this isn’t a major but it’s just as vital. His win in the WGC event two weeks ago shows he’s very comfortable in high-profile event, even if they aren’t majors. But, this next three weeks will certainly have ‘major’ feel to players.

Plus, as an added incentive, he held the 36-hole lead here last year and didn’t win. Don’t look for that to happen again.

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About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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